Queens Birthday Weekend Trip - Friday 31 May 2013 to Monday 3 June 2013 (4 days)
Ever since a club trip 15 or so years ago, the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk has been unfinished business for me. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do it in warm sunny weather with the famous views everyone raves about, rather than three days of cold and wet, slogging through mud. 2013 turned out to be the year I found out. The weather gods turned on the most glorious balmy weather for all three days of our QBW break.
Splitting into two groups to tackle the walk from both ends, Saturday morning saw Tony’s posse of 11 starting at Onepoto and tackling the big climb up alongside the Panekiri Bluffs to the hut at the top.
Panoramic views down to the lake made the incline pass quickly and I found myself the first to arrive at the superbly positioned hut. The rest of the group trickled in over the next hour or so, as did the ‘Swedish Netball Team’ - a group of young Otago medical school students. Yes, they’re not a myth after all! Not long after a fiery red sunset and early dinner, I retired to the bunk room to catch up on sleep lost the previous night in the tightly packed sardine can, whoops, I mean club bus.
Next morning was a long downhill to Waipaoa Hut where we had a break (note to self: idyllic spot - must go back and stay). From this point on we enjoyed the vistas from a lake-side perspective, hugging the shores for the remainder of the walk. Near the Korokoro Falls junction, Lee’s group straggled past us in the opposite direction, everyone very upbeat about the beautiful scenery and warm weather. KT, KM and I managed to while away two hours on a lunchtime diversion to the falls, definitely well worth the detour. Then it was a steady lurch onwards to the old Marauiti Hut, arriving about 4pm.
There we were regaled with Caroline’s exploits en route to the hut. Apparently she’d blindly been following Carol and stepped on some ferns that had no substance under them. She’d then almost plunged 1000 feet down the side of the cliff, sharks and crocodiles circling below, hanging on only by her fingernails. To the rescue came Malcolm, bolstered by the ballast in his 20kg pack. (note to self: if ever snowed-in in a blizzard, be in Malcolm’s group - no-one would be hungry or cold).
After dark some locals who’d come in by boat stoked a roaring fire outside, and smoked freshly caught trout. It was just so quintessentially Kiwi. And the next morning I looked out of the bunkroom window to see mist rising ethereally off the lake, the shoreline shimmering in the golden early morning sun. Little slices of magic to savour once back in the Big Smoke.
Our last day Monday, saw us marching purposefully towards the 43km end post at the Hopuruahine Bridge. It was an easy flat walk, passing by Waiharuru and Whanganui Huts along the way.
At 1.30 Lee’s group arrived in the bus to collect us, and we top and tailed ourselves for the long homeward drive. All the good work reaped by fresh air, exercise and dehy rations were cancelled out by a greasy dinner at Matamata - but ah, it was good. And I can happily say that Waikaremoana is now very satisfyingly ‘finished business’.
Leader: Tony Walton
Scribe: Diane Dowle
With: Carol Exton, Caroline Lemos, Karen Manning, Karen Tasker, Erica Gilchrist, Bhavani Paulraj, Athol Berry, Malcolm Calvert and Dayglow Dave (Best).